Psychiatric Quarterly

, Volume 89, Issue 4, pp 1007–1018 | Cite as

Medical Student Reactions to Disaster after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake: Motivation and Posttraumatic Growth

  • Kanako TakuEmail author
  • Phoebe G. Prioleau
  • David S. Anderson
  • Yuzo Takeguchi
  • Hideharu Sekine
  • Masaharu Maeda
  • Hirooki Yabe
  • Robert T. Yanagisawa
  • Craig L. Katz
Original Paper


Medical students often become involved as post-disaster emergency responders despite incomplete training, and in doing so may suppress their immediate experiences as victims and survivors. This experience, however, may lead them to increase their motivation to help others. We examined how cognitive and emotional reactions to disaster correlated with posttraumatic growth (PTG) in medical students in Fukushima, Japan after the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011. To date, Fukushima continues to suffer from radiation concerns following the nuclear power plant meltdown. In a survey three years after the onset of a long-term disaster, with a cross-sectional research design, medical students (N = 494) reported their negative post-disaster reactions, desire to help, and demonstrations of capability, and completed the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI). We conducted hierarchical regression analyses and found that the addition of variables pertaining to negative post-disaster reactions (e.g. confusion, anger, and sadness) led to the largest increase in predictive value for PTGI scores; students reporting a past traumatic experience were also more likely to experience PTG. Our results indicate that weathering stressful disaster circumstances created opportunities for positive personal growth and reinforcement at a crucial time in medical students’ professional development.


Resilience Posttraumatic growth PTSD phenomenology Etiology/risk and protective factors Disaster 



The authors would like to thank Dr. Atsushi Kumagai, Dr. Akira Ohtsuru, and Shohei Andoh (Fukushima Medical University, Fukushima, Japan) for their support and assistance with this survey.


This work was supported by the Arnhold Global Health Institute at Mount Sinai and by Rotary International (Global Grant 1414205).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The study was granted exemption by the Mount Sinai IRB and approved by the Fukushima Medical University IRB.


This manuscript has not been previously published and is not under consideration in the same or substantially similar form in any other peer-reviewed media. All authors listed have contributed sufficiently to the project to be included as authors. To the best of our knowledge, no conflict of interest, financial or other, exists.

Conflict of Interests

The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kanako Taku
    • 1
    Email author
  • Phoebe G. Prioleau
    • 2
  • David S. Anderson
    • 2
  • Yuzo Takeguchi
    • 3
  • Hideharu Sekine
    • 4
  • Masaharu Maeda
    • 5
  • Hirooki Yabe
    • 6
  • Robert T. Yanagisawa
    • 7
  • Craig L. Katz
    • 8
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyOakland UniversityRochesterUSA
  2. 2.Icahn School of Medicine at Mount SinaiNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.School of MedicineFukushima Medical UniversityFukushima CityJapan
  4. 4.International Exchange Affairs, Fukushima Medical UniversityFukushima CityJapan
  5. 5.Department of Disaster PsychiatryFukushima Medical UniversityFukushima CityJapan
  6. 6.Department of NeuropsychiatryFukushima Medical UniversityFukushima CityJapan
  7. 7.Division of Endocrinology, Department of MedicineIcahn School of Medicine at Mount SinaiNew YorkUSA
  8. 8.Medical Education, and Systems Design and Global HealthIcahn School of Medicine at Mount SinaiNew YorkUSA

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